Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wal-Mart in Mexico and the US

Photo by Ron Raedle for Getty Images
 
When Wal-Mart expands in Mexico, it simply bribes government officials to get its way, as the story in this morning's NY Times lays out in great detail (The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico)---19 stores were located in Mexico by bribing Mexican officials. 
 
But when it wants to expand in the US, Wal-Mart has to be more sophisticated, which means it has to try to twist the political process to its advantage, as Will Evans reported last month in Bay Citizen and California Watch:

Wal-Mart has said the strategy is necessary to avoid politically motivated lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act. Voter-approved ballot measures that stem from petitions are exempt from environmental review and protected from CEQA lawsuits. Wal-Mart argued that when a city approves one of its petitions without an election, the project would be protected, too.

Mexico doesn't have a pesky CEQA for developers to worry about, but it does have zoning laws and permits required before a project gets okayed. What were Mexican officials worried about in Teotihuacan, along with the fact that the Wal-Mart store is next to an ancient pyramid? Traffic:
 
There were obvious reasons for traffic regulators to balk at Wal-Mart’s permit request. Traffic, of course, was one of Teotihuacán’s biggest headaches, and a supermarket at the main entrance would only make matters worse. But there was a far bigger complication. The town had recently approved a long-term plan to ease congestion. The plan called for building a bypass road through Mrs. Pineda’s alfalfa field.
 
Scott Wiener and Leah Shahum may wish California would dump CEQA and just go back to the Wal-Mart way of dealing with obstacles to their favorite projects: backroom deals, perverting the political process, and bribery. 

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